Leaning into player freedom results in buggier, but better games, says Bethesda’s Pete Hines

Kareem Anderson

A week from launch and Bethesda executives are making the promotional rounds and speaking with any and every one about their latest original title Starfield. In a recent interview with Game Industry.biz, Bethesda’s head of global publishing Pete Hines opines on the state of game releases and their increasingly buggy nature and how the company sees it as a net positive for gamers.

While the interview with Hines was initially done to discuss the release of Starfield, the conversation inevitably veered into Bethesda’s history with bug-riddled launches as it pertains to the company’s latest 20-year-long gamble.

We embrace chaos,” he told us. “We could make a safer, less buggy, less risky game if we wanted to. But what we try to lean into is player freedom. Yes, there’s going to be some little things here and there where your companion might stand a little too close to you sometimes, yet the freedom you get, and the things that happen because of that, we absolutely love and embrace.

Of course there are bugs. But does it take away from your experience? Or do you have a consistent, fun game that you just can’t stop playing and experimenting with?

Zooming back out, the rest of the interview focused more broadly on Microsoft’s involvement with Starfield, the Redfall’s disastrous release, the disparity between successful games, and how Bethesda will measure success with its new semi-exclusive title.

When talking about Microsoft’s highly documented involvement with the Starfield’s promotion, marketing and development, Hines answered the question about how the studio approached mounting expectations from gamers and their new owner.

No. Now that we’re a part of Game Pass, every game we make is our biggest game because our audience only grows. Having said that, a [Bethesda] Game Studios game is something special – they don’t come around that often. For something like this, if you like Elder Scrolls, if you like Fallout, it builds excitement. But in ways that is, for us, less pressure and more affirming.

Earlier this year, Bethesda shipped Redfall which amounted to a black eye for the studio as well as its parent company Microsoft. Beyond the typical buggy release that Bethesda has been known for, Redfall was also not a well-received genre-blending first-person-shooter the company positioned it as, and as such, obvious concerns about Starfield have surfaced.

We are always in a process of learning, so that’s not new for us. We don’t like failing to meet our players’ expectations. At the same time, we are the same company that has had launches that didn’t go the way we wanted, and we don’t quit or abandon stuff just because it didn’t start right.

The Elder Scrolls Online’s PC launch was not flawless but we stuck with it. Now it’s like this insanely popular multiplatform. It’s the same with Fallout 76. Redfall is no different for us. Okay, we didn’t get the start we wanted, but it’s still a fun game… and we’re going to keep working on it. We’re going to do 60fps. We’re going to get it to be a good game because we know, as a first-party studio, Game Pass lives forever. There will be people ten years from now who are going to join Game Pass, and Redfall will be there.

With Starfield expected to be a big Fall hit, Game Industry.biz brings up the gulf of success the industry is seeing with a handful of AAA games taking the top spot while it’s feast or famine for practically every other title that’s been release over the past three to five years.

We have to be in a position of like: we’re going to come into this space with confidence, like we know what we’ve got. We feel like if we do our jobs, and what we’re supposed to do, [then] what happened in Diablo or not, whether this [other] game did well or not… well, that’s them. But this is us, and we know how to do this.

We think we’re amongst the best in the world at bringing a game to market in a way that connects with our fans. Hopefully, we then overdeliver with the game.

Tangential to speaking about industry success, Hines was asked about internal success goals for Starfield and how the company sets that marker.

Our players need to love it and play it. That’s it.

As many as humanly possible. Every time, my goal is all the players. Game Pass changes the math so much with how many people we get built into this amazing value and subscription. Our job is to market this game and talk about it in a way that’s authentic.

There is more to the interview, and I suggest you visit Game Industry.biz to read it in its entirety but as it stands, Starfield is off to a great start with early reviews very positive, and notes from gamers about Bethesda’s unusually buggy-free release for the title.

Featured Image via Wired